Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

I picked up my first iPhone around three months after the device launched way back in 2007, and I’ve been an iPhone user ever since. I’ve dabbled with Android devices throughout the years, and I even tried webOS on the HP Pre, but I didn’t like either operating system as much as I like iOS on the iPhone.

When Microsoft first introduced Windows Phone, I was instantly attracted to it. I liked the look of the user interface, I liked the way the system worked, and I actually liked the fact that Microsoft was in control of the Windows Phone Marketplace. (One of the things that I dislike most about Android is that the Android Market has no approval process.) I’m not a fan of the Windows desktop operating system, and I’ve stayed as far away from it as possible after purchasing my first Mac. But I felt compelled to try Windows Phone.

So I did. I swapped my iPhone for a HTC TITAN running Windows Phone Mango for one month. Here’s how I got on.

Advantages

The thing that attracted me to Windows Phone most was the operating system itself. It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s very well designed. Microsoft clearly thought about user experiencing when designing Windows Phone, which isn’t something you can say the company takes into account with all of its products. It works very well, and although it doesn’t yet support dual-core processors, it’s incredibly smooth and snappy — at least on the TITAN.

Windows Phone’s simplicity makes it very easy to use. Much of its navigation is gesture based. There are few tab bars like those that loiter at the bottom of most iOS apps. Instead, you simply swipe between the different pages of your apps to navigate them. It’s plain and intuitive and something that very quickly becomes second nature.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

Windows Phone's Live Tiles are awesome

The Live Tiles, which offer real-time information right on your home screen, is one feature I missed most when I switched back to my iPhone. They’re very useful, especially when displaying real-time information like the weather, and it seems silly that you have to open an app or pull down your Notification Center to access simple data like this in iOS.

Another feature I love about Windows Phone is its social network integration. Link your device to your Facebook account and when you open the Pictures app, not only will you see the images you’ve taken yourself, but also those uploaded to Facebook by your friends.

Media syncing on a Mac using the Windows Phone 7 Connector is simple and hassle-free. Sure, it’s nowhere near as easy as using iTunes with an iOS device, but it’s still a very pleasant experience. The application uses your iTunes library for syncing music, movies, podcasts, and TV shows, so you don’t need to fiddle around with syncing them manually. Simply check the boxes next to the media you want and hit sync.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

The Windows Phone Marketplace is where the operating system both succeeds and fails all at once. Let’s talk about its successes first. Like most Windows Phone apps, it’s well designed and simple to navigate, making it quick and easy to find and install the apps you want. And like Apple’s App Store, Microsoft’s uses a strict approval process for regulating third-party software.

That means that you can download apps safe in the knowledge that they’ll work as advertised once installed, and they don’t just crash each time you open them, which is especially important when you’re spending your hard-earned cash on them.

Disadvantages

And now we come to the Marketplace’s failings, which, I have to say, isn’t really its own fault. The thing is, the Windows Phone Marketplace doesn’t offer enough apps. Let’s take Twitter clients, for example. On iOS there are dozens of Twitter apps, a handful of which are truly great. On Windows Phone, there’s an official Twitter app, which is just about bearable, and probably one half-decent third-party app. I couldn’t find a great Twitter app — like Tweetbot or Echofon — for Windows Phone.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

Where are all the apps?

And the same can be said about third-party web browsers, task management apps, photography apps, news readers… the list goes on. Sure, they’re not all poor, but there aren’t enough that stand out, and that’s a real issue if you’re coming from an iPhone.

If a Windows Phone device is your first smartphone, this probably won’t be an issue. But if you’re used to an iPhone and Apple’s App Store, and you not rely on having “an app for that,” you’ll really struggle to get used to the lack of apps for Windows Phone.

You’ll also struggle with the lack of a Notification Center. This is something we cried out for in iOS, and it’s difficult to deal with life without it. On Windows Phone, notifications almost disappear if you don’t action them, just like they did in iOS 4. There’s no way of viewing all of your alerts in one place.

And there are no lock screen notifications, either. You get simple icons that alert you to missed calls, emails, or text messages, but you cannot see them or interact with them without unlocking your device. That’s a shame, because the Windows Phone lock screen is actually pretty great, and it leaves plenty of room for things like notifications.

My final gripe with Windows Phone is a small one, but I’m sure it will annoy you as much as it annoys me. Windows Phone has no status bar like the iPhone. You get the time displayed in the top corner, but that’s it. To see your battery life, signal status and more, you have to swipe down from the top of the screen to display it for a few seconds, before it disappears again. I don’t understand why these things are just displayed all the time.

Playing Devil’s Advocate: My Month With Windows Phone [Feature]

Look at all of that wasted white space

My Verdict

Windows Phone was as good, if not better, than I expected it to be. This truly is a great mobile operating system, and if I was forced to choose between Windows Phone and Android, Microsoft’s offering would win my vote any day.

But I’ve been spoiled by iOS. Its thriving App Store, its home screen folders, its Notification Center, and its compatibility with the Mac are just a few of the things I sorely miss when I attempt to get by with another device, and they’re the reason why rival operating systems like Windows Phone just can’t compete when you’re used to an iPhone.

I’ve heard iPhone users complaining that Apple’s device doesn’t feature a larger display, or a 12-megapixel camera, or a micro SD card slot, or 4G LTE connectivity, or some of the other things you’ll find in rival devices. But when you sacrifice iOS and the App Store for these things, you realize that it’s not all about hardware.

I think that in time, Windows Phone will catch up — at least in terms of support from third-party developers. But until then, an iPhone user who’s happy with iOS would be crazy to drop it for a Windows Phone handset.

  • RB

    Nice review. I’ve never tried one but a bud of mine, also an Apple user had the same response after using an Android phone for a full year. He’s now back to iOS.

  • jasoturner

    MS is not dead yet.  I actually bought a Windows Portable ($250 for a 15.6″ Acer!), my first MS OS machine in at least 6 or 7 years.  And know what?  Windows 7 is actually pretty serviceable too.  I almost wonder if my dedication to the Apple camp is more emotional than practical.  Although I’ve run em all, from OS2 Warp to Linux to Dos/Win3/Win95+ and OS X, and I still find I have a lot fewer headaches living withing the Apple ecosystem.

  • ClickMe

    Compelling, and I reward you (or anyone) to take yourself out of your own tech shoes and use something else (primarily) for a while.

    I wish more of the tech journalistic world would follow your lead

  • Ian1175

    Fantastic write up that I totally agree with ! I’ve used an iPhone From the start almost and I also have dabbled with an few android devices.
    And I really wanted to like them and was blown away with the specs of some of the phones especially when I got the galaxy s 2.
    But I just don’t like android that much as a operating system it feels rough and unfinished compared to ios.
    Now I have never owed a windows 7 phone but my wife does own the Nokia lumia 800 and I have gotta say I’m pretty impressed its a great looking phone and the OS is great to use.
    I’m in no rush to get rid of my iPhone anytime soon but if forced into it I would pick windows phone over android every time.

  • buyrihn_the_amazing

    I made the switch from iOS to WP7. And yeah, I miss the camera—but that’s mainly all. Maybe I use iOS differently than many, but although I downloaded TONS of apps, I really never used them. IMDB & Pandora headed my list; similar story with my iPad. 

    Apple, unless they do a radically different departure on their platforms similar to what Microsoft is doing, will ultimately become a “remember when” type of company, rather than the innovation one they are currently known for. Metro UI works, and works well; iOS seems sophomoric and clunky in comparison.

  • Radtech51

    I’d like to see more reviews like this in the future. The next iPhone the 4gs or 5 or whatever they will end up calling it will be worth the wait though.

  • Luis Dominguez

    I actually prefer android over IOS.  That’s not to say I am using a 4S right now but I do miss a lot from android.  I think that widgets where great and until now the notification center was also something I missed.  My main reason for sticking with IOS is the apps and integration I get between all my Apple devices.

  • Shameer Mulji

    I don’t really think you’ll see a radical design departure witht the next iPhone.  I predict the basic design will remain the same but thinner / smaller.  I am more or less anticipating iOS 6.

  • Mohammed Usama Sheriff

    nokia did a great mistake adopting the windows ecosystem ! wp7 is just cosmetically beautiful ! none of the reviews have praised the battery and all the hardware limitations are there to just ape the iphone ! of course this is its initial iteration but one must out of his sense to blow money on wp7 ! morever if anything can compete ios .. it had to be meego which nokia buried cruelly :(

  • trifero

    This is what a i call an excellent review. Bravo.

  • doublebullout

    Great article. I’ve swapped back and forth between an iPhone 4 and a WP7 phone too. I’m in love with the WP7 calendar, live tiles and keyboard. These three features are almost compelling enough for me to switch for good.

  • ?Michael?

    great review and echoes most of my feelings. Im an apple die hard but tried out the Nokia Lumia 800 for a week and absolutely loved it. Best feature of WP7 is its social network integration in the people hub which works brilliantly. I didnt even need to install a Facebook or twitter app. The Metro Ui is beautiful and fast and unlike Android there is no clutter, just like Apple “it just works”. I will be recommending WP7 to anyone starting out with their first proper smartphone although not for anyone already invested in the Apple ecosystem. 

  • Roger Ramshit

    Whenever I use an MS product I just can’t help but thibnk of the dancing monkey boy and this reminds me that MS will never change and they will clobber the compeition at the first chance they get. Let them bleed money I say!

  • vistarox

    As a Mac user I am very impressed with what Microsoft has been doing lately. WP7 and Windows 8 look amazing. Microsoft and Apple seems to be the only ones doing truly great innovation nowadays. 

  • vistarox

    iOS> Windows Phone >>>>>>>>> Android. 

  • jasoturner

    Dancing Monkey Boy aside, Access is a GREAT product and has saved me god knows how many hours of work my dorky peers waste time doing in spreadsheets.  Microsoft gets some things right, even if it’s often clumsy and uncomfortable to watch.  Kind of like a nerd trying to make out for the first time…

  • jasoturner

     Interesting comment.  Somewhere, MS shareholders are smiling.  If only a bit.

  • jdog25

    Yeah I’m a Android Nexus user and I feel the same way about Windows Phone. I own all three but I rate them as
    1. Nexus
    2. iPhone
    3. Windows Phone

  • postulation

    Because Apple is not about “clobbering the competition”.  Please, they are the most anti-competitive company there is at the moment.

  • Ocelotty1

    I have a Titan, iPod touch & an iPad 2. Love the iOS system and app store but I’m sticking with my WP7 phone.
    The OP’s gripes are spot on though; I would love to respond to a call directly from the lock screen & the battery etc could easily be displayed, though I assume they are hidden to keep with the clean aesthetic and so as to avoid the inevitable copycat labelling

  • EShy

    “Look at all of that wasted white space” ? The whole point of Microsoft’s metro design is less chrome. no gradient backgrounds and big bulky ugly buttons.

    I agree that it doesn’t make sense not to show the other icons in the top bar. developers can hide them if their app needs that space.

    as for the apps, I don’t need 50 twitter clients to find a great one and there are a couple of great ones for windows phone (carbon, rowi, birdsong). what’s missing from windows phone isn’t more twitter apps, it’s the one off apps (indie developer apps, official apps from banks and services that started their lives as ios apps)

  • EShy

    people who buy a lot of apps (and actually use more than a handulf) won’t consider leaving ios just because of the cost. Microsoft is giving 25$ gift card for their app store to make switching easier. I guess the assumption is that apps you use a lot won’t cost you more than that (and apps you use rarely probably won’t exist on WP7 right now anyway)

  • EShy

    A friend of mine had an N9 for a week, he said MeeGo was crap. I guess the reason Nokia dropped it was just that it wasn’t ready and was too far away.

    I got a Lumia 800 a couple of weeks ago. as far as hardware design, it’s better than my iphone was (not even comparing to my HTC Evo). I was really surprised by that. I didn’t remember Nokia making such great hardware.

    Saying the WP7 is only cosmetically beautiful exposes the fact that you never used it.
    The iphone’s OS looks like the old feature phones that existed before it and Android looks like a bad clone of an iphone.
    The really great thing about WP7 is how easy and fast it is to do every day tasks.
    for example, I don’t have to open the twitter app or the facebook app to see if the people I care about posted something new. I just create a group with them and pin it to the start screen.
    A lot of apps also support pinning an internal screen of functionality to the start screen so you don’t have to open the app and navigate to a screen every time.

    It feels like Microsoft put some thought into creating a different OS and not just copying what’s out there. The downside is that the only way to see how much better it is, is to buy a phone and actually use it

  • MatthewStone

    There are a lot of good Twitter clients for WinPhone. Rowi and Birdsong are considered the best Twitter apps on WP7. I think the thing that confuses iOS users is that the trials for paid apps function as free versions. The iOS users go looking for apps in the free section and miss out on almost half of the good free apps.  

    These are both free to use even though they’re listed under paid apps…

    #1 Rowi
    #2 Birdsong

  • MatthewStone

    Try Rowi or Birdsong, they are excellent free Twitter apps for WinPhone. Remember on Windows Phone the paid apps usually have a free version available when you click try instead of buy. Windows Phone doesn’t need anymore Twitter apps.

  • brooklynwry

    Access isn’t bad. But it pales by comparison to FileMaker Pro, the Apple product that is was originally conceived to replicate.

  • jasoturner

    I confess, I have never used FMP.  Does it allow one to build applications as flexible and user friendly as Access?  I find visual basic allows me to do some really amazing stuff…

  • Nasher Dezno

    Unfortunately that has little to do with MS, and more to do with the developers themselves. Until they are on board and make the apps, they won’t be there, but I am hopeful that will change with time passing. Rome was not built in a day.

  • Nasher Dezno

    Carbon for WP is the best, it blows Rowi away, and I really like Rowi too so its no nock against them. Its the best Twitter app I have used on any OS anywhere. Give it a try too.

  • Nasher Dezno

    I had money left over after I bought the truly must have apps, which I ended up spending on apps I normally would not have bought, so I guess in a way it was a win/win for the devs and me depending on how you look at it.

  • MrSidneyShaw

    I dropped my iPhone for a Lumia 800 and I still like it. But it’s still true what Killian writes here the iPhone app store and notification centre are great and I miss them, but I think WP7 will catch up. I even see it as a plus that MS didn’t try to give WP7 all of the features right away, Apple did the same with iOS. Even wrote a little review about this for those who are interested: http://ts3t.de/en/page/switchi

  • Ramy Warda

    I’m purchasing an HTC Titan 2nd generation when it is released next week. I currently am using an old iPhone running iOS 3.1.3, and I’m positive I won’t miss it when I switch to WP7.5 Mango. I am also purchasing an iPad 3 in 2-3 months, so I don’t have to leave all of the features of iOS.

  • ajakej

    Really?  I bought a Nokia N9 with Meego and have to say: it’s leap years ahead of iOS, and is without many of the shortcomings of Windows Phone.  Meego wasn’t implemented more due to the fact that Nokia’s business plan only allotted budget/time for 3 Meego handsets before 2015, and that didn’t make financial sense for them.

  • twitter-255516221

    Bravo, Killian and CoM. 

    More reviews like this are needed on interest websites like this one. I enjoy reading the reviews and comments from Cult of Mac. Once again making sure your readers don’t become narrow-minded and maliciously discriminatory.  Too often consumers fall dangerously in love with a brand to where rational thought is an afterthought, conformity sets in and then you have a community of close-minded thinkers thinking they are open-minded and free.

    Keep up the good work!

  • melatoca

    So true about the app comment I hate that they don’t have any of the thriving apps that are out and a lot of the apps it does have are not good at all. Just concerns me that they lack so many apps like Pandora, words with friends, and drawsomething

About the author

Killian BellKillian Bell is a staff writer based in the U.K. He has an interest in all things tech and also covers Android over at CultofAndroid.com. You can follow him on Twitter via @killianbell.

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